Crystal Mountain: Interior designer, Maude Interiors, Yvonne Whelan Designs

How one woman juggled part-time studies, work and kids to get a job she's passionate about

I took the interior decorating program at Humber College. I started in 2010 but was working part-time and having two kids, so it took me a while to finish. I completed it with honours last summer. 

Interior design is something I always had a passion for, but I never realized it could be my career until I started working in the design world. I’d gone the conventional route – did an undergrad and worked in the corporate sector.

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario in political science, and then worked in advertising and marketing until 2008. When I was at an ad agency called BBDO in account services, I became interested in prop styling and design, so I went back to school part-time when I was 29. 

Interior design is a creative job, but it’s also a project management role. Humber’s program included a business course that helped with lining up all the necessary paperwork. I refer to my school notes daily.

Studying part-time definitely demanded a juggle. The last course I took was in May, and I was still breastfeeding my son. I had to bring him to school that was hard, but you do it. When I started, I wasn’t married, and by the end I was married with two kids, so I appreciated the program’s flexibility. 

I then consulted with California Closets for three or four years. I just finished mat leave in January and started working for myself (my own company is called Maude Interiors) and with Yvonne Whelan Design as a junior designer. She’s very busy – 80 per cent of my work is with her. 

We’re redesigning the CBC Radio show Q’s studio. That’s one of our big commercial projects.

I love the whole process, from meeting with the client and getting that initial concept to executing a full-scale design. It can be lengthy process, but you end up creating useful and beautiful spaces for people to live in.

Sometimes I meet with couples. He might have a really masculine style and she might have a feminine style, and you have to marry those preferences while convincing them to trust your vision, which can be a challenge. Building trust and a rapport with clients is something you’re not taught, but it’s imperative. Without trust you’ll be at a standstill.

Good interior designers have confidence in themselves and their abilities. You need conviction. And time flexibility is important I meet clients a lot on evenings and weekends. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. You have to stay on top of trends, suppliers and what’s going on. It’s a constant education. You have to stay relevant.

Social media is a huge tool for presenting and advertising your work. A lot of jobs come from referrals on social media. Websites are great, but having that immediate connection with people on Facebook or Instagram is huge way to get exposure. 

You can come out of the program and start your own business, but a lot of our professors advised us that it’s good to have work experience before doing your own thing. At California Closets I learned the business aspect. You might be working for a carpet company or designing window treatments. There is such a need for those trades and so many avenues you can go in. 

Now that I’m working for myself and with Yvonne, I have the confidence and I have the background.

Where To Study: Interior Design

Algonquin College (Ottawa) Bachelor of applied arts, interior design: $3,766.18/term interior decorating: $1,343.89/term.

Conestoga College (Cambridge) Bachelor of interior design: $7,441.62/year interior decorating: $3,843.12/year.

Fanshawe College (London) Bachelor of interior design: $3,855.15/term interior decorating: $2,157.15/term.

Georgian College (Barrie) Interior decorating: $3,668.44/year interior design: $3,728.44/year.

Humber College (Toronto) Bachelor of interior design: $6,963.80/year interior decorating: $3,854.56/year.

OCAD University (Toronto) Environmental design: $6,807/year.

Ryerson University (Toronto) Bachelor of interior design: $6,814-$7,561/year.

Sheridan College (Oakville) Bachelor of interior design: $ 9,482.05/year interior decorating: $4,827.99/year.

St. Clair College (Toronto). Interior design: $2,687.78/year.

Toronto Film School Interior decorating: $28,360/18-month program.

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